Apple Growth Partners

Apple Growth Partners’ Leader Recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Excellence in HR Awards

CLEVELAND, Ohio – (August 19, 2021) – Apple Growth Partners (AGP), award-winning accounting and business advisory firm, is proud to announce Jennifer DiFranco, PHR, SHRM-CP, was named winner of the overall excellence (individual/private company) category during Crain’s Cleveland Excellence in HR awards.

On Wednesday, August 18, the virtual awards ceremony highlighted human resource professionals throughout Northeastern Ohio, specifically recognizing the industry’s response during the Covid-19 pandemic. Awards were distributed during the live webcast to HR experts in both large and small companies in all sectors, including non-profits. Winners were announced in five overall categories: overall excellence; HR executive/team of the year; rising star; “accidental” HR leader; employee advocacy; and diversity.

AGP’s Jennifer DiFranco, senior director of talent, was named winner of the overall excellence category (individual/private company) for her work establishing employee Covid-19 protocols while actively developing engagement and retention strategies. Having joined AGP during the pandemic, DiFranco immediately had a full plate of responsibilities ranging from keeping the workforce safe and reducing exposure to developing a long-term work from home strategy. DiFranco formalized the firm’s HR department by aligning existing recruitment and benefits staff and provided leadership and direction needed to meet strategic goals. Within her first year, she accomplished several major initiatives, including a comprehensive learning and development plan (known internally as AGP University), debuted a competency model tied to the firm’s values and professional development paths, completed a detailed strategic plan for recruitment and onboarding, and standardized the leadership oversight of the firm’s administrative professional team.

DiFranco was also a member of the firm’s team that established a groundbreaking model for employees to choose where they work best, along with input from their manager, known as AGP Anywhere. AGP Anywhere serves as the firm’s strategy for engaging professionals in the conversation for whether they prefer to return to one of the firm’s three offices in Northeastern Ohio, work remotely, or a hybrid of both. AGP Anywhere was also designed to attract and hire staff outside of Ohio, expanding the firm’s talent by embracing the future of remote work.

“Jen’s expertise in human resources was the missing piece to the firm’s strategy and aggressive growth plan,” says Erica Ishida, president. “Jen quickly immersed herself in the accounting industry by understanding continuing education requirements, remote work barriers and opportunities, industry hiring trends and obstacles, and historical personnel concerns to alleviate going forward. Jen’s leadership within the firm, even outside her direct department of human resources, has been extremely well received as she’s become a trusted liaison for employees.”

“It’s no surprise to us that Jen was named the winner of her category because she is simply the best,” comments Chuck Mullen, chairman. “Our employees are our priority, and Jen’s leadership in our HR team ensures our professionals are top of mind as we continue to grow.”

About Apple Growth Partners

Apple Growth Partners (AGP) is an award-winning accounting and business advisory firm with more than 77 years of creative solutions that deliver healthy, sustainable growth. AGP offers a full range of services for privately held businesses, including tax planning and compliance, audit and assurance, business valuation, litigation consulting, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), fraud prevention and detection, family office services for High-Net-Worth individuals, and transaction advisory. With more than 100 employees, AGP collaborates with business owners and partners across Ohio and beyond, extending client services through a remote workforce in 2020 while maintaining office locations in Akron, Canton, and Cleveland. AGP’s professionals provide expertise in additional industries and services, such as employee benefit plans, bookkeeping, auto dealerships, manufacturing, construction and real estate, and Black-owned businesses. To learn more, visit